All posts by subu7023

I'm a (mature) student of the social services with some background in publishing and a degree in history. I've seen suburban poverty through involvement with a drop-in centre.

(103) A man’s home is his castle …and frequently also his shitbox!

We used to think the future would be more about flying space cars than about  living in cars …but that’s how it goes, apparently.  If you find your own self unable to pay off student loans or cover rent and end up living in what used to be a symbol of middle class aspiration, the item linked below is for you.  It’s a depressingly long wiki article with a dozen-and-a-half citations and over 40 contributors.  Gosh, but there’s a lot of little details to get down pat when it comes to living in a metal box!  Our favourite pointer is the advice never to sleep in the driver’s seat of your castle.  Apparently if you do your body and brain may too closely associate that location with sleep and cause you to have a collision, …assuming you actually have somewhere to drive to.
How to live in your car

(102) Are we used to all of this yet?

Latest US numbers for job creation are actually pretty good according to mainstream media.  Seen against the oft-mentioned-around-here 2010 US Census the Americans still have an ordeal ahead of them in regard to people and the economy.  Here is a piece from Chicago with nothing missing from the picture of suburban poverty.
Lack of jobs leaves more suburban, middle class sliding into poverty

(101) Where is suburban poverty going? [Video]

If you came by looking for some serious depth-of-treatment regarding suburban poverty you could do much worse than giving up ninety or so minutes to Scott W. Allard from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.  He points out that suburban poverty is not just driven by outward movement of people but exists for its own local reasons as well.  Professor Allard is working on a new book.  We’re probably gonna read it.
Places in need

(100) Canadian housing bubble?

Last fall, The Economist published a piece that put Canada on a list, with a few other smaller countries, of those eligible for a significant correction of real estate prices.  Hasn’t quite happened yet.  The country gains a quarter million immigrants a year and is set to become even more of a petro state in the future.  Both things keep traditional ideas and indicators of growth cooking along.  A number of large resource extraction projects are also on the books and these will likely bring in the cash, too.  Thing is, if real estate prices remain jacked up it makes things tough for the working poor.  It’s a mixed blessing for the beleagured middle classes, too.  Home equity makes a lot of them feel richer and smarter than they really are.  A real estate wipe-out would hurt, but we can already see there’s pain in this long boom, it just depends who you are.  For the suburban poor, high prices for real estate mean the rents are jacked higher than wages and for the middle class homes remain overpriced.  Hard to say what will happen.  We heard on the radio today that, according to the governor of the Bank of Canada, the bad economy in the United States costs Canada as much as $30bn a year in lost export trade.  Wow!  Will we crash the way the Americans have, just a bit later, or will we skate through this era of debt and disaster to whatever era arrives afterward?
Economist bubble piece
Bank of Canada comments 
Huffington Post Canada
Bubble case studies: Ireland & Canada Automatic Earth, 2010

Photo credit: Marceltheshell via Wikimedia Commons

(99) Mississauga is broke

Canadians count themselves a fortunate people.  Perhaps that’s why they are such squanderers as well?

Case in point, the vast suburban project directly west of Toronto.  Mississauga enjoyed a true golden age of property development, a California-esque era of low taxes, easy services, smugness, and growth, growth, growth.  The cornfields went down.  The houses went up.  The money changed hands.  Now, it looks like the party is over in the city whose official tag line is the frighteningly vacuous “Leading today for tomorrow.”  If the private and public economy alike can’t be kept up by a massive flow of development-based revenue then what will happen?  Nobody seems to know but denial isn’t really an option any more.  This year, the city that bragged about never laying off staff and not needing tax increases levied a whopping 7.4% increase on its property tax payers.  Imagine the pain in a true blue Tory place that kind of thing brings on!

Architecture and urban affairs columnist Christopher Hume pulls punches in the item linked below.  Even if you hate the kind of sprawling megasuburb Mississauga is you can’t read a demolition job like this without a fearful feeling of apocalypse to come.

Hume: Mississauga waking up to a new reality Toronto Star

(98) York

Between Lake Simcoe and the northern border of Toronto lies York Region.  It has just a shade over one million people and has been the venue of some very high intensity real estate development since the 1980s.  It would appear to represent the pinnacle of fast growth and high-profit, up-to-the-minute suburban mega-success.  Guess what?  They have poverty and homeless people.  The proof is available from the York Region Alliance to End Homelessness.  Still photos and voiceovers tell the story overlooked amidst all the commercial activity, monster homes, and cars, cars, cars.  You know, they probably should have just kept growing corn up there…
Hidden In Plain Site

(97) Chicago

A report from public station WTTW profiles tough times in DuPage County, Illinois.  An official describes poverty there as having “exploded.”  Some 60,000 people in DuPage County meet US federal government criteria for being poor, an increase of some 185%.  Those profiled in this piece represent the so-called “newly” poor.  A teacher and a nurse, slipped from situations of relative privilege sadly demonstrate the findings of the 2010 US census.  Mentioned here a number of times already the 2010 census will enter the American historical record as a profound document of social change and social difficulty.  Will the suburbs ever bounce back?  Or will they just turn into something else completely?
Chicago Tonight: Suburban Poverty 9:00

Photo credit: barmik via Wikimedia Commons

(96) Germany

European academic journal Articulo published a piece in 2010 analysing the general discourse around suburbia in Germany and the US.  The objectivity of the piece may annoy readers with strong feelings about the suburbs, good or bad.  The author finds suburbia neither heaven-on-Earth nor hell manifest.  He calls for, and provides, more detailed understanding of life beyond the urban centres.  Looking at American experience and the sheer scale of suburbia there the comparison to Germany may seem less than useful but we found the piece brainy and articulate.  Going forward, it is hard to imagine that suburban outbuilding will continue in Europe even if it makes use of public transit and sustainable sources of energy.  In North America the suburban project seems to be over, to be contracting if anything.  To have modelled any part of their built environment on North America is probably a worrisome thing to Europeans, doubly so now that the Euro crisis is fully arrived.

Suburbs: the next slum? Explorations into the contested terrain of social construction and political discourse

(95) It isn’t a secret…

Whoever wrote the headline for the item linked below maybe needs to pay more attention to the world.  Suburban poverty is not a secret.  Still, this is a good piece.  The item mentions 2010 US Census data which strongly underlined the shift in the fortunes of the suburbs, underway since well before the crash of 2008.  The author also visits a food bank in Illinois.  Food banks and food pantries are among the places where the rubber really hits the road as far as ascertaining the true state of a community.

“Last year, there were 2.7 million more suburban households below the federal poverty level than urban households, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was the first time on record that America’s cities didn’t contain the highest absolute number of households living in poverty. There are many reasons for the dramatic turnabout in the geographic profile of poverty.”

America’s Best Kept Secret: Rising Suburban Poverty
Fiscal Times

(94) Demolition Man: UBC’s Bill Rees on sustainability

Bill Rees is a Canadian academic from the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning.  Here he gives a deft and noteless lecture weighted with facts on the ground.  Rees is all over the changing context of urbanization, technology, consumption, sustainability, and energy.  Apparently what North Americans have come to think of as normal is really the single most anomalous moment in all of human history.  Cutesy ideas like green consumerism, hybrid SUVs, green architecture and biofuels don’t last long in front of scientist Rees.  Short term profit in the run-up to complete catastrophe have distorted our reality so much it looks like we can’t change in time.  None of this means wealth and happiness for humans, suburban or otherwise.  Boy, it gets depressing maintaining your own meta-blog some times.  No wonder people drink.